Jackson Browne

Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1

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The opening 28 seconds of Jackson Browne's Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1 are massive crowd applause. Even its volume level gets boosted the way it did on live albums from the 1970s. Guess he wants you to know he still matters to people -- and it's totally unnecessary. The music here speaks for itself. Whether or not one appreciates Browne's recorded catalog is immaterial; his gift as a songwriter is enigmatic, unassailable, and singular. There are 12 songs here from throughout Browne's career, ranging from "These Days" and "For Everyman" to "Lives in the Balance" and "Looking East" and all points in between. There are numerous spoken and instrumental intros to the material; Browne's a fine and comfortable communicator when it comes to sitting naked and alone in front of an audience, though sometimes his humor is cynical and borders on bitter. The versions of "For a Dancer" and "The Pretender" are deeply moving as are "These Days" and "Too Many Angels." It would be easy to live without all the intros, as they merely point toward Browne and what he has accomplished, when the songs so easily speak for themselves and for him. Perhaps on volume two he'll let that happen. Despite his many asides, this is a fine and necessary addition to Browne's catalog. Still one has to wonder, with the double-disc Rhino set that appeared earlier in 2005 and these live retrospectives, when there will be new material coming from a songwriter who has had something to say that mattered in each of the last four decades. Let's hope it's soon.

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